POSTED: June 21st 2017

NEIL WILSON: It is Olympic but is it sport?

Tokyo 2020 will see a number of new sports events on the Olympic Programme © Bigstock
Tokyo 2020 will see a number of new sports events on the Olympic Programme © Bigstock

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Bridge is a card game. The only aspect of self it exercises is a brain cell. But this month it has been officially declared a sport in the 28 countries of the European Union.

Get ready for its Olympic bid. The age of its traditional participants may be against its acceptance by the IOC. That ancient institution presently has a craving for its sport youthful and tele-visual.

But its bid for a place in a future Games is a certainty. There is money in them there Games for any sport that can climb aboard the gravy-train, and as the judges pronounced sport requires only "a certain effort to overcome a challenge or an obstacle."

I mention the new status of bridge because this week BBC Sport Online had two young people arguing whether surfing is a sport.

One said it was a hobby.  "Just showing off to friends". To her it was "hanging out and having beers." What she liked about it was that it non-judgemental where "I don't have to conform".

Reminded me of Ross Rebagliatti, the Canadian who won the first snowboard Olympic gold and briefly lost it because he had smoked marijuana at a going-away party before leaving for the Games. He never saw it as sport or conformed.

Emily Currie, a professional surfer, instead trains at it for hours every day. What difference the Olympics would make to her? "The funding will be amazing", she said.

To me, a teenager of the Sixties, my perception of surfing was Beach Boys, rebellious, anti-establishment, a summer escape from school and competition.

But we have to accept it as sport because the IOC has accepted it in the 2020 programme for Tokyo. Indeed, we are going to have to get used to an entirely new vernacular at those Games.

How about translating "he flashes 5.14d, has more 5.15c ticks than anyone...". That is Climbing magazine description of Adam Ondra, one of the great rock climbers whose recreation has been accepted in 2020 as sports climbing.

Skateboarding is another debutant in 2020, another youth sport that the IOC has seized upon to freshen its appeal to a younger generation.

Reminds me of sitting on the promenade at Ouchy, a lakeside suburb of the IOC's home city of Lausanne, watching the skateboarders' gymnastics as they pirouetted off the backs of street benches. Incredible to watch but was it sport?

Who is to say? The highest court in Europe has ruled now that bridge is a sport "for tax purposes", so I suppose us old 'uns have to accept, as Dylan sang in our youth, times are changing. So are the Olympics.

** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications. 

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